If you can’t adapt, then you won’t survive. And if you can’t survive then there is no room to thrive. The experience will change you and you have to embrace the change and grow with it.
— Aneesa

Living abroad gives you a wonderful and challenging experience. You will go through a lot of things, but these things will change you. It maybe a good or bad experience, but at least you are constantly moving, growing and changing. Living abroad requires you to be open minded, adaptable and flexible. As an expat, you get to see different places, experience different culture and meet new people. These will be a learning curve for you, so don’t fear change. Learn to embrace it.

Meet Aneesa, a full time Grade 1 teacher and certified adventurer. Get inspired by her story as she takes on a journey being an expat.

Name: Aneesa 

Instagram: @expatpanda

Age: 29

Work/ Passion: Full time grade 1  teacher

Countries you’ve visited: There is around 46… too many to mention!

Country of origin: South Africa

1.    What is the reason why you want to live abroad?

 I grew up in a very conservative and religious community which made me think that there must be so much more to the world than what I was surrounded by. Realistically speaking, I knew I could not travel much from South Africa considering the geographical location and cost of living. So when I got the opportunity to move abroad after I graduated from university, I did and have since lived in South Korea, Kuwait and now, the United Arab Emirates. I never planned to travel a lot, I just wanted to experience a different lifestyle and culture. I always thought I would go for a year or two and then move back to SA. But I realized that traveling didn’t have to be expensive and there were so many opportunities to do so when I lived abroad that I once I started, I never stopped! Now I don’t ever see myself returning to live in South Africa!

2.    What does it feel like living in another country?

For the most part, its very challenging and satisfying at the same time. Its challenging because you never fully understand the local culture, customs and language so sometimes things get frustrating (like when people make false promises and say ‘Inshallah’). Yet, its also satisfying because there are so many unique experiences to be had in different countries and I like to take advantage of festivals, events, trips and opportunities that I know I wouldn’t be able to have in my home country. At the core of it, you are always conflicted because when you are in another country, you want to be home. But when you are home, you realize that you have changed and that you don’t fit in anymore so you long for your adopted home!

3.    What is the funniest/ scariest thing ever happened to you being an Expat?

I haven’t had anything scary happen to me but the funny thing is when people try to guess where I am from based on my appearance and accent. They almost NEVER guess correctly and I have heard everything from Mexican to Trinidadian! People have preconceived notions have what they think South Africans are supposed to look and sound like so its funny when I shatter them!


4.   What are some of the life lessons you’ve learned during your stay in another country?

The main life lesson that I have learnt is that being adaptable is key to expat life. If you can’t adapt, then you won’t survive. And if you can’t survive then there is no room to thrive. The experience will change you and you have to embrace the change and grow with it. Old ideas don’t always translate to new places and if you want to be an expat, you will have to adapt to new ways of thinking!

5.    What are some of the advice you can give to people who aspire to live abroad?

The best advice I can give is to JUST DO IT. I know that sounds like a cliché but I have seen so many people do all the hard work and then pull out because they aren’t sure or let others’ doubts pull them down. If this something you really want- no matter whether the experience may be good or bad- then go ahead and do what you feel is right. Trust your instincts, do the research and take the plunge! At the end of the day, 2 people could live in the same country, next door to each other, but have TOTALLY different experiences. So don’t listen to what anyone else says, grab the opportunities and remember that the experience is what you make of it!

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Bonus question: What’s your favorite place and food in the whole wide world?

My favourite food is probably Thai cuisine but I also love Indian food! Its hard to pick a favourite place but my top 3 countries would be Oman, Seychelles and Iran!